The Topic: Uncovering vegan shoes that are chic and budget-friendly with Editorial Assistant Hilary Pollack
The Dish: SHOES. Oh my gawd. Shoes. A source of obsession for people of all kinds, but a continued source of frustration for vegans, footwear can make or break an outfit, a stroll, or a hike. Forrest Gump's mama said that there's an awful lot you can tell about a person by their shoes, so make the best impression possible by picking a pair that is fashionable, sturdy, and cruelty-free. While designer vegan shoes can go for several hundred bucks a pop, fear not—there are thriftier ways to get your kicks.
Want a one-of-a-kind look without a three-digit price tag? Vintage shoes come (very literally) in all shapes and sizes, and can give you a unique bang for a decent buck. Thrift stores offer the luck of the draw, but for shoes, I prefer eBay, which has a thorough search function that makes it easy to find styles in your size. Type in "vintage vegan shoes," and you'll find everything from knee-high riding boots to sparkly 1960s pumps to gladiator sandals, all for less than 50 bucks. To ensure the best fit, measure your trustiest pair with a ruler and compare to a seller's measurements. Some people may have difficulty getting past the idea of "pre-worn" shoes, but I'm not one of them. There is nothing to fear—the risk of contracting fungus from used shoes is actually very low, and a swish of anti-fungal spray can add peace of mind.
We only find more and more reasons to love Etsy every day, and its shoe selection is just another brick in the (awesome) wall. A combination of new and designer shoes offers a one-two punch of more than 1,300 different options, which span every material and aesthetic imaginable. I'm crushing on these size 6-1/2 1980's studded Victorian velvet boots, but unfortunately I clock in at an 8-1/2. No problem, though—I've got these cute navy pumps on my side.
3. "Accidentally Vegan"
Not all non-leather shoes think of themselves as vegan, but that doesn't mean they won't help you look good without wearing animal products. Payless Shoe Source ,Target, and Forever 21 have many faux-leather, faux-suede, and faux-shearling flats, boots, and heels to choose from—and check out the handbags and wallets while you're at it. Online shops Lulu's and Modcloth straddle the line by using the "v" word to describe their synthetic leather shoes, and are both majorly on-trend. These cutout cage booties from Lulu's are a steal at $37, or peep these kitten-tapestry platform boots from Modcloth (!!!)—an amazing way to pay homage to your feline friends with every step.
4. Google Shopping
You know how when you search on Google (this little website that you might have heard of), the vertical menu on the left helps you refine your search to focus on images, maps, videos, news, shopping, or more? Type in "vegan shoes" and any other defining characteristics of your desired kicks, click "shopping," and voila! I typed in "vegan platform boots" (I LIKE BOOTS, okay?) and found more than 3,300 results, and you can even sort by price to find a look that matches both your wardrobe and your wallet.
5. Vegan Online Stores
You may be wondering why I've listed vegan online stores last, since they seem like one of the most obvious ways of finding cruelty-free accessories from compassionate designers. They are! But I'm here to help you think outside the (shoe)box, and look for less obvious ways to score reasonably priced, leather-free shoes. That said, MooShoes, VeganChic, and Alternative Outfitters are definitely ahead of the pack, with sales galore and shoes that look cool, not corny.
The Final Word: While many of us wish that we could afford Cri de Coeur, Beyond Skin, and Olsenhaus kicks on the regs, we've got to eat (yay!) and pay bills (boo!) too. Shoe shopping on a budget is totally possible with a keen eye and a list of vegan-friendly sites that won't leave you frowning in fugly clogs. To get the most out of your favorite kicks, consider getting them resoled or repaired if they are merely marred but not ready to kick the bucket. Recycle, reduce, and reuse includes shoes! Now get out there and strut your stuff.